JIS News

Dr. Clare Roberts, First Vice President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has said that his group was moving to increase public awareness of its work within the Caribbean in order to advance human rights in the region.
However, he said that this objective could only be achieved when misconceptions by Caribbean states about the IACHR were cleared up.
Dr. Roberts said that one of these misconceptions was in relation to the death penalty, of which many Caribbean states had accused the Commission of having an abolitionist agenda. He added that many were of the view that the IACHR articulated positions that were critical of the death penalty, and delayed the processing of death penalty complaints.
“This view of the Commission’s approach is inaccurate. The Commission has stated on numerous occasions that it does not harbour an abolitionist agenda. To the contrary, in its decisions, the Commission has acknowledged the right of states to apply the death penalty but has maintained that its application is subject to restrictions,” he said.
Dr. Roberts made these comments while addressing a seminar on: ‘Freedom of Information and You’, organized by the IACHR and the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Friday, February 6.
These restrictions, he said, included strict compliance with due process and the need for individualised sentencing for capital punishment. He also informed that the Commission had also used various mechanisms to expedite its determination of death penalty complaints, which he said had significantly reduced the processing time for these cases.
Another concern raised by these Caribbean states, he said, was that the Commission frequently appeared to favour the petitioners in complaints against governments, rather than acting as an objective decision-maker.
“In this respect, it is important to emphasize that the Commission was established as an independent and impartial legal body whose responsibilities are governed by international human rights instruments and not by the parties in complaints before it,” Dr. Roberts said.
Additionally, the IACHR First Vice-President said that in fulfilling its promotional mandate, the Commission worked equally with civil society and countries to ensure respect for human rights in the Hemisphere.
Dr. Roberts said that the misconceptions were not the only challenges faced in advancing human rights in the Caribbean region but that the promotion of a deeper understanding of human rights on the part of the people of the region was also of urgent concern to the Commission.
As a result of this, he said that the Commission had recently appointed a Caribbean Attorney based in the region and had established a fellowship in Washington for young attorneys.
He also disclosed that the Commission was also focusing on the promotion of the right to freedom of expression and information and therefore had created a Rapporteurship on Freedom of Expression. This office, he said, was unique in that it was the only Commissioner Rapporteurship with a rapporteur permanently situated at the Commission’s headquarters.
Dr. Roberts said that in addition to the rapporteurship, there were other tools available within the Commission to assist members of the local media in their work. These, he said included, precautionary measures that could be adopted for journalists whose physical integrity was threatened, and thematic reports such as the Report on Terrorism and Human Rights, which discussed the need to balance the protection of the right to freedom of expression with the state’s interests in public security.
He also stated that there were substantial benefits to be gained when the media and the Commission worked together. “Just as the Commission can enhance the work of the media, the media, in turn, can provide a crucial link in developing a broader knowledge of human rights in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean. This requires the media to become more active in following and reporting on the Commission,” he said.
The IACHR is an affiliate of the Organization of the American States, which was created to promote the observance and defence of human rights in the Hemisphere.

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